CD and DVD Recordables: How Long Will They Last?

This question doesn’t come up very often, but has a time or two, so let’s try and summarize this a bit and come to an general answer.

In the early ‘90s when the first CD-R disc was introduced manufacturers said the media had a data life in excess of 40 years. In the late 90s when the first DVDR discs appeared on the scene producers proclaimed a data life of at least 100 years. Throughout that time and even today the press will “discover” that the media is susceptible to CD or DVD rot that will eat your information – audio, video or data – in as little as two years after it is written.

Since CD’s and DVD’s are used to archive nearly everything today, it does make you worry. Especially when these discs are the only place you have precious, irreplaceable family memories – photos and movies – as well as vital family, personal and company data/documents.

Most people who burn a disc without producing a coaster believe they have quality media. Unfortunately that only tells you the disc will be compatible (able to be played) in the vast majority of CD or DVD players. More importantly all better quality CD and DVD burners include technology called overburn/underburn protection making coaster production a thing of the past. The basic construction of the two technologies enable you to burn your data in a very precise, very controlled manner

There are only two foolproof ways of proving the data life of the discs you use:

Write a few CD or DVDRs, then wait about 25-50 years and check if they still hold the correct data

Use a CD/DVD analyzer that is specially designed to retrieve very accurate information about your media and your data after accelerated aging in test chambers where the discs are subjected to excessive temperature and humidity tests

The first is impractical. However, some of the first discs produced and written to in Japan still have the data intact. The second provides only theoretical limits and doesn’t take into consideration how you use, handle and store the media. However, assuming proper handling, chart D illustrates how temperature and humidity can affect the data life of quality media.

Between the CD-R discs produced in the early 80s to today’s double layer DVD+R discs and throughout the brief optical industry there has been considerable progress in write performance, capacity, quality and obviously price.

Following the test procedures of the International Standards Organization (ISO) quality media manufacturers have been able to document data life-spans ranging from 50-200 years. But keep in mind there are wide differences between low budget media operations and quality media firms. In addition variations in manufacturing methods, materials and processes/procedures can dramatically effect the data life of the media you use.

Believe it or not YOU are the greatest danger to the data longevity of your personal, family and business information that is stored on CD and DVD. Direct exposure to sunlight and intense heat can do dramatic damage. Rapid changes in temperature and humidity can stress the materials. Gravity can bend and stress the discs. Fingerprints and smudges can do more damage than scratches.

Simply by following a few Do’s and Don’ts you can ensure your precious family and friend pictures, movies, family records and business files have the maximum data life.

Handle discs by the outer edge or the center hole
Use a non solvent-based felt-tip permanent marker to mark the label side of the disc
Keep dirt or other foreign matter from the disc
Store discs upright (book style) in original jewel cases that are specified for CDs and DVDs
Return discs to their jewel cases immediately after use
Leave discs in their spindle or jewel case to minimize the effects of environmental changes
Remove the shrink wrap only when you are ready to record data on the disc
Store in a cool, dry, dark environment in which the air is clean
Remove dirt, foreign material, fingerprints, smudges, and liquids by wiping with a clean cotton fabric in a straight line from the center of the disc toward the outer edge
Check the disc surface before recording

Touch the surface of the disc
Bend the disc
Store discs horizontally for a long time (years)
Open a recordable optical disc package if you are not ready to record
Expose discs to extreme heat or high humidity
Expose discs to extreme rapid temperature or humidity changes
Expose recordable discs to prolonged sunlight or other sources of UV light
Write or mark in the data area of the disc (area where the laser “reads”)
Clean in a circular direction around the disc.

In my opinion I believe that CD and DVD media should last up to 50 years.
To be safe I usually re-burn the data CD’s every two years and discard the old ones just to be fresh.

How cold weather can affect electronics

Since we are approaching the fall/winter season, I felt it appropriate to discuss how the weather affects our electronics. When I say electronics, I am really referring to items like laptop/notebook computers, and cameras left in a cold or freezing vehicle overnight.

First let me just say that leaving your laptop/notebook computer in your vehicle overnight is not really a good idea at all if you value what is on it. You just never know what could happen, worst thing being that it gets stolen. Remember if it can go wrong it probably will.

Now with that out of the way I’m going to cut straight to it. Have you ever brought in a pair of sunglasses or a compact disc from your cold vehicle indoors and noticed how it fogged up? Well this is what happens to your laptop/notebook computer when you bring it in from the cold after it has been sitting in the car all night.

Your hard drive platters and circuit boards develop condensation when it goes from cold to warm or hot and this could cause for some nasty short circuiting of your precious item.

In general, laptop/notebook computers are remarkably resilient when it comes to dealing with low temperatures (down to around 0 degrees F or -17 C).

However, cold can and does affect the LCD screen and disk drive. LCD’s are liquid crystal devices which can freeze if the temperature goes low enough. In addition, the fluorescent tube that provides the backlight to the screen (called a CCFL) can be dimmer due to the cold.

Both the LCD and the CCFL generally recover as they warm up and will operate normally afterwards. It is not clear whether this shortens the life of either component as I do not have any data from comparison testing.

Disk drives can also be affected by the cold. First, there are two types of disk drives. One uses ball bearings and a race around the shaft of the drive. The other uses fluid dynamic bearings (FDB), rather than the ball bearings. FDB drives are almost always used in laptops and have the advantage of lower noise and the ability to spin at higher speeds.

Mechanical disk drives with bearings seem to survive extremely low temperatures better than the FDB drives. As the temperature approaches single digits Fahrenheit (around -12 C), the fluid in the bearings thickens and the drive platter cannot spin at the appropriate speed. This can cause a boot failure.

In almost all cases, FDB drives returned to normal operation after just a few minutes in a warm environment. If the drive is inside the computer case, the heat from the processor will often warm it up and a reboot can be accomplished. On the other hand, for those external USB drives, you may want to wait a while longer for it to warm up.

So with cooler temperatures approaching, just keep all this in mind the next time you take your portable office with you home, and decide you are too tired to take it inside where it’s nice and cozy.

Microsoft Security Bulletin MS08-067 – Critical

Microsoft Security Bulletin MS08-067 – Critical
Vulnerability in Server Service Could Allow Remote Code Execution (958644)

This security update resolves a privately reported vulnerability in the Server service. The vulnerability could allow remote code execution if an affected system received a specially crafted RPC request. On Microsoft Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003 systems, an attacker could exploit this vulnerability without authentication to run arbitrary code. It is possible that this vulnerability could be used in the crafting of a wormable exploit. Firewall best practices and standard default firewall configurations can help protect network resources from attacks that originate outside the enterprise perimeter.

This security update is rated Critical for all supported editions of Microsoft Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, and rated Important for all supported editions of Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008. For more information, see the subsection, Affected and Non-Affected Software, in this section.

The security update addresses the vulnerability by correcting the way that the Server service handles RPC requests. For more information about the vulnerability, see the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) subsection for the specific vulnerability entry under the next section, Vulnerability Information.

Recommendation. Microsoft recommends that customers apply the update immediately.

Click here to find your operating system and download the appropriate patch.

How to temporarily fix your wet cell phone

Oh My God!!! I just dropped my cell phone in my drink! Its ruined, what will I do now!!!

Has this happened to you yet? Have you dropped your cellphone in the toilet, a cup of tea, or washed it in the laundry?

If has not happened to you yet it may, after all they are making them smaller and smaller these days and we can easily forget they are in our pockets at times, or let them slip out of our fingers easily.

So what is your plan if this happens? Do you have phone insurance? For some of us the answer is simple, phone insurance, but you are limited to how many times you can “mess up” with cellphone insurance. Then there is the iPhone which you may or may not can get insurance on. I am uncertain at the time of this writing.

Today I just wanted to give you a fall back option if you are in a pinch somewhere and you need to get back to talking asap.

Visit a local Target or Walmart store and go to electronics and look for a GoPhone.

What is a GoPhone?
GoPhone is the trademark for AT&T Mobility’s pay-as-you-go (PAYG) service.
With a GoPhone, you can pick the plan that works best for you, or pay as you go. Either way, there’s no annual contract or credit check.

You can pick one up for as little as $18 and on up to $99 for the moto razr v3 model.

The GoPhones come with a sim card that must be activated after you have left the store and powered it up to begin your first phone call.

What is a sim card you ask?
A Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) on a removable SIM Card securely stores the service-subscriber key (IMSI) used to identify a subscriber on mobile telephony devices (such as computers) and mobile phones. The SIM card allows users to change phones by simply removing the SIM card from one mobile phone and inserting it into another mobile phone or broadband telephony device.

Ok so now you know where to get a GoPhone and you know what a sim card is.

Armed with this information you can take your damaged cellphone that you dropped in the toilet or in a drink and remove the sim card from it. Now put that sim card in the GoPhone and power it up.

Now you can make calls once again. It really is that simple. This will allow you to keep on going untill you can get your better phone serviced.

Most of the time you will have your contacts and all intact as well. If not I suggest that you take this time right now to copy your contacts to your sim card right now so that if this does happen to you, you will have your contacts on your sim.

This varies from phone to phone on how to copy your contacts to your sim, so check your manual. I may do a write up later about how to do that at a later date.

Toshiba A75 Poor Design Causes Overheating

I recently had the pleasure of working on a Toshiba A75 laptop and found out first hand just how horrible the design on this model is.

My clients problem with this laptop was that it would shut down not 10 minutes after booting. It couldn’t be timed either. Sometimes it was 5 minutes, sometimes 7 minutes, so this led me to believe that it was overheating somehow.

The fans appeared to be functioning properly, I mean they were spinning their blades off. You could see from underneath when you turn the laptop on its side.

I figured it had to be overheating, so I quickly googled a little history on this laptop and discovered that it was notorius for doing this due to poor design.

I took it upon myself to completely disassemble the computer and clean out the dust, hoping that this was the problem. Once I had completely ripped the thing down to the processor, I couldn’t believe what I had found.

There are two main parts to the CPU heat sink. The first part (the one that you can see from the vent at the back of the computer) was restricted to about 40% of full air flow by a wall of dust. This was the better part. The other part of the heat sink (the part right over the CPU), was completely plugged SOLID with dust.

I cleaned all this matted up lint out, put it back together, and ever since, the fan hasn’t even had to go on high power because it cools just fine. Toshiba has simply very poorly designed its heat sink and it therefore acts more like a dust trap than a heat sink. If you need instructions on how to disassemble your Toshiba, check out: the instructions are very clear.

Below are some photos I took of the dust that was trapped in the cooling fins.

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